Tag Archives: Foucault

The principle of solidarity between sentiment and reason: a reflection starting from L. Bourgeois’ solidarism.

It is not easy to find a unique meaning of the term solidarity. The term can indicate several meanings at the same time: it can indicate a legal term – the legal obligatory condition of a relationship with several debtors or with several creditors; it can indicate a feeling of fraternity that arises from a common belonging and leads us to behaviours of mutual help and altruism; it can indicate an ethical concept that leads us to share purposes and responsibilities with others. A polysemous term, therefore. But this plurality must not overshadow the complex theoretical and practical elaboration that its development presupposed, particularly within the theory of solidarists. To address the issue of solidarity, without missing this complexity, let me take Leon Bourgeois’ La Solidarité, published in 1896,[1] as starting point for my reflection. This text could be considered as manifesto of solidarism.

Léon Bourgeois (1851-1925) is not very well known outside of France. He formulated the doctrine of solidarism which he tried to implement by making solidarity the basis of society. A jurist, radical politician, and theoretician of solidarity under the Third French Republic, he also served numerous influential roles as a politician and diplomat. He was nine times minister (Public Education, Labour, Foreign Affairs, etc.), Prime Minister in 1895, President of the Senate (1920 -1923). His short-lived cabinet in 1895, was overthrown for tabling a bill creating an income tax, as Member of Parliament, then senator he played an important role in the voting of the first social protection laws (industrial accidents, pensions…). He was member of many social reform associations and was among the founders of the League of Nations, and its first president.  He also led the French delegation to the League of Nations until his death. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920 for this work.

At first glance, the purpose of addressing this seemingly outdated solidarist idea might be questionable. The idea of founding a “just republic”, to develop a third way between liberal individualism, and socialism or collectivism[2], is no longer relevant in this current day. Yet, I believe returning to Bourgeois’ reflections could help us clarify the current use and abuse of the term solidarity, as it often carries the risk of being lost in the empty banality of rhetoric.

The term Solidarity occurs more than twenty times in the body of treaties of the European Union reformed in Lisbon in 2007[3]. In this tally we did not account for the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, where an entire body of articles (27 – 38), indicated with chapter IV, is titled “solidarity” which thus becomes part of the fundamental values of the Union.

But the difference between the official text of treaties and the reality of its implementation is further evident when we consider the growing forms of inequalities that undermine social cohesion both in Europe, in the United States of America and other Western countries. To cite just one study: Ipsos’ 2020 research on the Social Cohesion Index (ISCI) finds that nearly twice as many global citizens are “weak” rather than “solid” in their sense of social cohesion and concludes that social cohesion is under attack globally.[4]

And if, as Durkheim affirmed, solidarity is equivalent to the set of values, practices and norms that ensure cohesion in society, we cannot say that the use, even excessive, of the term solidarity in the European Treaties, has produced its implementation in effective public policies. So, it seems that the term solidarity has lost its propositional force. Precisely for this reason, it could be interesting to return to one of the first elaborations from when the term was a key idea capable of generating actions.

Genealogy of a polysemic term: from juridical meaning to feeling and bond

Solidarity is a fairly recent term. The terminus technicus of Roman law, “in solidum teneri” and “in solidum obligari” became in French “solidarité” without losing its original legal meaning. That is, it indicates an obligation for which various debtors undertake to pay for each other and each for all an amount borrowed or otherwise owed. In this juridical meaning of responsibility in solidum the word solidaire is already registered in the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française of 1694.[5] Still, in the first edition of 1751 of the Encyclopédie by Diderot and d’Alembert, “solidarité” is legally defined as the quality of an obligation. This is a legal definition that we also find in, in the 1835 edition of Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. Although the lemma of the 1835 edition ends by stating that “It is sometimes said, in everyday language, of the mutual responsibility that is established between two or more people”.[6]

The dictionaries attests that the term solidarity begins to come into use in its modern meaning in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1840 the philosopher Pierre Leroux indicated in the “the mutual solidarity of all human beings”[7]  the most authentic expression of charity, and in 1842 Hyppolyte Renaud published under the title of Solidarité[8]  the presentation of Charles Fourier’s social views and proposals.

The modern meaning of the term becomes increasingly popular, so much so that in the mid-nineteenth century it’s imported to England, although not without changes in meaning that are still current. In fact, as Alain Supiot mentions, reporting the testimony of Guy Braibant, during the drafting of the Constitutional Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the British delegate argued that the English word solidarity did not have the same meaning as the respective translations into the continental languages, and thusly the notion of solidarity in the continental sense had no equivalent in English.[9]

A complex term, therefore, which in any case was used in France as early as the 1830s and 1840s, in the meaning of social bond by the founding fathers of sociology, Auguste Comte and Émile Durkheim.

In Discours sur esprit positif (1844) A. Comte talks about social solidarity as an “intimate feeling” of “the bond of each to all… extended to all times and all places” [10], a feeling that new positive philosophy must make “involontairement familier”[11]  Unwillingly and subconsciously familiar.

And it is to A. Comte that Léon Bougeois explicitly links himself when he places the idea of debt at the basis of his quasi-contract: “the human being is born a debtor of human association”.[12] But the affirmed “the bond of each to all” the bond of solidarity is defined by Bourgeois not with reference to Comte, but to Kant to the concept of organism expressed in the third critique already announced three years previous in the writing “Über den Gebrauch teleologischer Principien in der Philosophie“, where Kant proposes a teleological perspective, which, although it does not make known anything more than what is already known, allows us to think, and therefore understand both the organism and  nature as a whole.,:

“The concept of an organized being already implies that it is a matter in which everything is reciprocally related to each of its parts as an end and a means”[13]

Bourgeois takes Kant almost literally: “According to Kant, it is precisely this “reciprocity between the parts” which constitutes the organism, where everything is both “end and means.”[14]

What does this reference to Kant imply? Firstly, the distancing from the idea that the organic whole is a closed and self-centred totality where the good of the whole comes before the parts of which it is composed. At the same time, the assertion that imagining society on the model of this organic whole, where the parts are expendable for the good of the whole, is outdated. The reference to Kant’s concept of organism reveals in addition that this concept is assumed as a guiding idea in the research of facts, in analogy and not in identity with the idea of solidarity[15]

Bourgeois’ solidarity: Reciprocity

The relationship of reciprocity is fundamental both inside the organism, and outside in the relationship of organisms with their environment:

“These relationships of reciprocal dependence between the parts of living beings, exist between the beings themselves too and, also between all of these beings and the environment in which they are placed”[16]

The whole depends on the parts, as well as the parts on the whole: each part is an end and a means. The purely instrumental relationship of the part to the whole is outdated because each individual must be considered by the others as an end.

Thanks to the Kantian reference, Bourgeois can therefore rethink the relationship between the individual and society in a biological imaginary which, as has been said,[17]  is in radical discontinuity with two traditions: the tradition that makes individual interests prevail excessively over collective ones and the tradition that affirms the logical and axiological primacy of the collective over the individual.

“The human being is no longer an end for himself and for the world: he is both an end and a means. He is a unit, and he is part of a whole. He is a being having his own life and having the right to preserve and develop this life.”[18]

This is how Bourgeois responds to the question of whether there is a contradiction between the law of solidarity and the law of free development of the individual. There is no contradiction because:

“The actions of the two laws are coordinated—and there is a necessary and sufficient condition for this coordination: the cooperation of individuals in the common action”.[19]

In this new biological imaginary, the parts, he says, are individuals who “develop, and yet their development contributes to the development of the organism they compose; they evolve, and their evolution is a function of collective evolution. They are, in a word, associated, and their association contributes not only to the development of the whole that they form, but also to the development of each of them.”[20]

The bond of reciprocal dependence is not always positive for the individual, as the biological model inspired by Pasteur’s theories highlights: “his (the human being’s) health is constantly threatened by the illnesses of other human beings whose life is in turn threatened by the illnesses he/she will contract himself”[21]

The contagious disease model shows the risk every individual is exposed: relationships of “natural solidarity” left to themselves can be deadly.

Solidarists do not attach any value to social theories derived from Darwinism, indeed when they speak of it, it is to denounce its moral errors.

Bourgeois knew well how the struggle for existence discovered by the natural science in the second half of the nineteenth century, made the concept of competition the central value in sociology. The mechanism of natural selection of the «fittest» brought to the individualist thesis the most powerful arguments to justify the laws of social competition.[22]

For Bourgeois, the lesson of microbiological pathology shows how “vital” competition is ambiguous: it is good for the individual if it is the strongest, and therefore it is a means of fixing the qualities useful for the species, bad for the individual itself if it is the weak and therefore necessarily succumbs. If we want to develop social relationships that defend the existence and safety of all individuals, we need to pay attention to the weakest.

Despite solidarists use the biological imaginary, it is very clear to them that human society cannot be assimilated to the community of living organisms:

“Human society is not an organism similar to the animal organism; it does not constitute a living being where the parts are, as in the biological aggregate, materially united to one another”[23]

In other words, the order of societies isn’t self-regulated.

Even if solidarists affirm a factual solidarity, they don’t derive the normative sense of solidarity from this fact: Bourgeois himself states it very clearly “Solidarity as fact, solidarity as duty: never confuse the one with the other” “Solidarité fait, solidarité devoir: ne confondons jamais l’une et l’autre”[24]

This is why the individuals shaping an association must respond to the risks of natural and factual solidarity with a consciously pursued solidarity, if they want to keep the individual in a state “of prosperity, security, even existence” [25].

However, a key problem appears: how to implement this conscious solidarity, and therefore responsibly respond to the risk which vital competition exposes us to? We must correct the “negative solidarity”: the forms of social solidarity must be thought in discontinuity with the natural ones. For this reason, according to Bourgeois, the individuals who shape the association must recognize the duty of justice. The question is how delineating “a specific rule of the rights and duties of each person, in the common action of all” [26]

To do this, Bourgeois refers once more to Kant, to the Kantian notion of duty. The duty of obeying the law for respect of law, however, is immediately understood through the Swiss philosopher Charles Secretan, and his affirmation that the knowledge of the good that the conscience prescribes is the work of reason, but reason develops historically. And, not secondarily, the Kantian foundation of the moral law, the Kantian universalism is further enriched with a classical reference. The reference is to Cicero’s De legibus: where Cicero “affirms the existence” of a law that is common to all human beings, which commands virtue and forbids injustice “.[27]

Let me mention that in the De legibus Cicero expresses the intimate need for a moral transformation of Roman society and its ruling class. This renewal must be carried out through the implementation of a political-cultural program. The practice of conscious solidarity requires a political-cultural reform, in which the development of institutions and moral development go together.

Debt and the quasi-contract

What form can the rule of justice take? To answer this question Bourgeois developed a new theory of the social pact which, as has been said, is the foundation of social right[28]. As already mentioned, Bourgeois developed his argument from Auguste Comte’s idea that the social bond is the bond of all human beings, dead, living now and in the future. The law of reciprocal physical and moral dependence binds everyone to everything: biologically as we have seen; economically, in the mutual profit of the work indispensable for the satisfaction of the needs; in thinking: “the human being thinks, and each of his thoughts reflects the thought of his fellows in whose brains it will be reflected and reproduced in turn”; in feeling “He is happy or he suffers, he hates or he loves, and all his feelings are the effects or the causes of congruent or contrary feelings which stir at the same time all these other men with whom he is in a relationship of perpetual exchange”. [29]

This bond is not only about the present, it binds us to the past and the future. Coming into the world is not a simple biological fact. Coming into the world means sharing a world already humanized by language, culture, technology, institutions. It also means changing this humanized world, as a legacy for future generations.

“Human being is born debtor of human association”.[30]  “(The debt) is a legacy of all the past to all of the future” [31]

Every human being receives an inheritance by birth. Every human being is therefore born with a load of cultural, material, and scientific debt that they must recognize. This heritage is not the same for everyone: physical, mental, social, national, historical differences make the distribution of the human heritage unequal. Hence the duty to correct the injustice of those who receive a negative legacy.

How to decide what is the sum to be paid by whoever is in debt? How to determine this in solidum obligatio, whereby whoever is in debt undertakes to pay what he has received in usufruct? Bourgeois himself asks: “Who then will set this account of profits and losses, benefits and charges?”[32]

This obligation is based on the quasi-contract of association, which is a way of proceeding to reach consensus on the conditions of the association that “distributes fairly the advantages and charges among all and (the distribution) will be those which the partners would have adopted if they had previously been free, and equally free, to discuss among themselves, with equal morality, the conditions of their agreements.”[33]

The use of the term quasi-contract should be emphasized: let me clarify meaning: the quasi-contract is a juridical concept of obligation of Justinian code. It includes all those obligations deriving from a lawful relationship that had affinity with a specific type of contract but based on an informal agreement. The term derives, in fact, from the expression obligatio quasi ex contractu, ‘obligation as per contract’. The quasi-contract category has reached the Code Napoléon which places them among the “commitments without treaty ” and defines them in art. 1371 “The quasi-contracts are the purely voluntary facts of human beings, which result in any obligation towards a third party, sometimes a reciprocal obligation of the two parties”[34]

By using the term quasi-contract, Bourgeois wants to detach himself from the classical theory of the contract. This defines once and for all the question of the division of power, establishing a “prior agreement” as he expressly says in a critical note on Rousseau. He wants to define obligations in the absence of a treaty and therefore to express that the solution of the socio-political problem of solidarity it is always provisional.

The quasi-contract is “an interpretation and representation of the agreement which should have been established in advance between them (human beings) if they had been able to be fairly and freely consulted: it will therefore be the presumption of the consent which their equal and free wills would have given which will be the only basis of right” [35]

According to Marie-Claude Blais, Bourgeois’ quasi-contract concept was, in a different way, re-launched by John Rawls, with the original position playing a central role in formulating a theory of justice. The function seems the same: the quasi-contract places the associates “in a sort of” original position “of equivalence.” Whatever the inequalities of condition, the quasi-social contract presupposes an “equality of value” among all individuals.[36] As human beings each has the same equal right as all others.

However, the equality of solidarity is not an abstract form of egalitarianism: we have seen in the citations the insistence on the term fairly. By means of fairness, the unequal distribution of social burdens, due to birth, historical contingencies, biological conditions, are thus corrected with attention to concrete situations.

Solidarity: A possible social principle instead of competition?

We saw how Bourgeois took position against the theses of economists (individualists) who, on the basis of the science of evolution, explained the laws of social competition as a natural factor and thus made economic competition one of the natural forms of vital competition. [37] Quoting the conference of 1895 “Les Préjugés socialistes” by Yves Guyot, Bourgeois mentions that for classical liberalism competition is the very condition of life, and society must not intervene to modify and reduce the inequality of its members [38].

Bourgeois does not respond to classical liberalism’s anthropological naturalism with another, but, and the Kantian reference reveals it, he proposes a counter-image based on reciprocity. The Kantian counter-image moves away from the purely instrumental reading of relationships and has a strong ethical significance.

As such, reciprocal relationships are not a simple natural fact. In other words, the order of society does not regulate itself, but requires an implementation by a political rationality whose guiding principle becomes solidarity. In this way solidarity could take the place of competition in the current formation of a new social subjectivity.

To clarify this point, I will refer to the analyses that M. Foucault developed in the courses held between 1977-79 at the Collège de France on that new form of liberal political rationality which he himself called neoliberalism.[39]As we know Foucault tackles the issue through the reading of two distinct currents of economic thought that have in common the criticism of the dirigiste economy: the Neoliberal School of Freiburg, and the libertarianism of the United States , which finds its purest expression in Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Gary Becker, Milton Friedman and many economists of the Chicago school. Foucault talks about the invention of a “reason of the least state”[40] (« raison du moindre Etat ») which claims that the state is ” under the supervision of the market rather than a market supervised by the states” [41]

Foucault clearly warns us: we must not confuse classical liberalism with this new form of political rationality:

“For we should not be under any illusion that today’s neo-liberalism is, as is too often said, the resurgence* or recurrence of old forms of liberal economics which were formulated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are now being reactivated by capitalism”[42].

What then is the specific of this further form of liberalism? Foucault explains this clearly: “Here, laissez-faire is turned into a do-not-laisser-faire government, in the name of a law of the market which will enable each of its activities to be measured and assessed.” [43]

In other words, for neoliberalism, public policy no longer has the task of correcting any negative effects of the market, on the contrary it is the market with its operating mechanisms that corrects public and social policies. The market takes on the task of verifying what is true and what is false, and of promoting a human model based on the principles of economic processes.

At the centre of this new function of the market there is no longer free trade, but competition which in turn becomes the regulating principle of social, public, and private, behaviour. The role of the state becomes to promote competition conceived as an idea to be implemented and to make society and its members able to face the competition.

“When you deduce the principle of laissez-faire from the market economy, basically you are still in the grip of what could be called a “naive naturalism,” that is to say, whether you define the market by exchange or by competition you are thinking of it as a sort of given of nature, something produced spontaneously which the state must respect precisely inasmuch as it is a natural datum. But…what in fact is competition? It is absolutely not a given of nature…competition is not the result of a natural interplay of appetites, instincts, behaviour, and so on…Competition is an essence. Competition is an eidos. Competition is a principle of formalization… competition as an essential economic logic will only appear and produce its effects under certain conditions which have to be carefully and artificially constructed… Pure competition must and can only be an objective, an objective thus presupposing an indefinitely active policy.[44]

Competition is not thought of as a natural fact whose development can be sustained by eliminating obstacles and correcting their deviations. Competition according to Foucault is a principle of formalization, that is to say it is the abstract syntax that supports a procedure with which the new system of symbols is built; in other words, it is an idea to be implemented with a continuous action at all levels, both public and private. The state must ensure that its members acquire the ability to compete, even by competing with each other.

To fine-tune this new anthropological model, the American neoliberalism will develop the notion of “human capital”. By human capital the US- neoliberalists mean the individual who transforms himself into an enterprise-unit. Individual turns itself into an entrepreneur of himself, who agonistically relates to the market in the same way as an entrepreneur with his business. In this way, the neoliberal biopolitical government makes the enterprise as “a model of social relations and of existence itself, a form of relationship of the individual to himself” [45].

The life of the individual, in its entirety, is absorbed by the market, where the principle of competition reigns. Therefore, any kind of human behaviour must be oriented towards profitability, and the individual is thus directed towards a new form of subjectivity. At the core of this social and anthropological model is the principle of competition, whose engine is inequality.

The market mechanism must include all subjects to function[46], and it is here that the model presents an ambiguity, just mentioned by Foucault, who however does not examine the question in depth. This is the ambiguity highlighted by Wilhem Röpke when he states that competition is the central principle of the market economy, but it cannot be the principle on which to build the whole society, since it is a dissolving principle.[47]

Competition mentions Foucault is a “formal game between inequalities”. This is why it is a principle that splits, rather than binds individuals together. In a society where the competitive individual is its fundamental anthropological model, the action of the state to keep the market in optimal conditions must prevent exclusion, understood as the primary factor that places social subjects out of competition.

However, the new needs of competitiveness ultimately bring out two forms of human capital; the “strong” one who have acquired high skills, knowledge, professional skills, social and relational skills, and therefore are favoured, and those who do not have all this, and therefore, are easily excluded. Today, social exclusion is a huge, if not growing problem.[48] This raises the problem of the validity of the social and anthropological generalization of the enterprise model and presents the need to develop a new model.

If competitiveness is not a natural given, but is the product of a specific governmental form, historically identifiable, it is conceivable being able to modify it. That is, it is conceivable to set another objective that presupposes another policy. It is conceivable that a different governmental form whose principle is solidarity based on interdependence, in function of fighting inequalities. For this reason, Bourgeois’s principle of solidarity is of great interest as an alternative principle to competition, and as regulating principle of social behaviour. Reciprocity concretely brings the individual into social relations and prevents that the individual is conceived metaphysically as an abstract entity, since individual is constantly evolving in relation to others.

This relationship involves risks: disease, damage, death. Solidarity is the principle that regulates social behaviour and defends against risks: we join together because everyone’s activity is useful for the survival and well-being of each and every one.

Starting from the emotional bases of sociality, solidarity – as a feeling already identified by Comte – is expressed as a feeling of reciprocity, of mutual support between free and equal, but not identical, individuals. Through the “quasi-contract” solidarity is objectified and is transferred from the sphere of sentiment to that of law and politics, without the different being excluded. In this way, the role of the state becomes that of executing the quasi-contract that we have seen implies the recognition of the debt that each individual has towards the other. The role of the state therefore becomes to make subjects capable of sharing the debt and of standing surety for it.

“It is only indirectly, by obtaining, so to speak beforehand, from each of the human beings, the payment of the social debt, not towards a particular partner, but towards all, that it will be possible to place the contracting parties in a state of equality where their freedom can henceforth be exercised without injustice. Let human beings agree to organize among themselves truly mutual institutions, supported by all and open to all.[49]

Solidarity can thus become the new regulating principle of social relations.

“…this prior solidarity of social duties and forces which would allow human beings to then exchange fairly the products of their personal activity,”[50] it becomes reasoned project ability that organizes “Truly mutual institutions, supported by all and open to all, having for their object to assure to all human beings as widely as possible the support of the common force, and to warrant them, as  exactly as possible, against the risks of the common life ibidem in a word becomes political rationality”.[51] Thus solidarity becomes political rationality.

To conclude. The solidarity of Léon Bourgeois invites us to reflect on problems that we have begun to glimpse today: the ethical-juridical problems of the quality of our coexistence. Bourgeois’ declared aim was to overcome the dichotomy between liberal “laissez faire” and socialist collectivism: an apparently antiquated problematics, if – as it has been masterfully analysed by Foucault- at the centre of the new liberalism and its new function of the market there is no more free trade, but competition which in turn becomes the regulating principle of social, public, and private behaviour. But competition breaks the bonds of interdependence which, according to Durkheim’s theory, were at the basis of social cohesion. Competition implies a logic of separation that leads, for example, economic, ethnic, or religious groups to turn in on themselves to defend, defend their cultural values or their chances of survival. This is why in a competitive society the lack of social cohesion becomes the problem of problems. Then the thought of the solidarists which, as has been said is complex, subtle, and fragile, can still be captivating. These antiquated solidarists reflected on the articulation of solidarity in relation to the much later idea of the intergenerational pact, the agreement between freedom and justice, and the role of the state and law in a competitive economic world. They propose a path in which solidarity develops from being a moral feeling to a principle that must be implemented consciously and voluntarily, through institutions and regulations, aiming to make solidarity a regulating principle of living together.


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[1] Bourgeois, Leon. La solidarité, Armand Colin et Cie, Paris 1896, p. 116 hereinafter referred to as La solidarité, all quotes from the French text are my translations.

[2] See.  Gide, Charles., Rist, Charles, Histoire des doctrines économiques (1829), Paris 1920.

[3] see. de la Rosa, Stephane : La transversalité de la solidarité dans les politiques matérielles de l’Union, in Boutayeb, Chahira, (ed. by), La solidarité dans l’Union européenne. Éléments constitutionnels et matériels, Paris, Dalloz, 2011, pp. 165 ss., quoted by Giubboni, Stefano : Solidarietà, in Politica Del Diritto / a. XLIII, n. 4, dicembre 2012. p. 526,

[4] See: https://www.ipsos.com/en/social-cohesion-pandemic-age-global-perspective (viewed 02.06.2022)

[5] Le dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise, dédié au Roy. T. 2. L-Z  Vve J. B. Coignard et J. B. Coignard, Paris,1694, p. 485.

[6] Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. Tome 2, Firmin-Didot frères, Paris, 1835, p. 754

[7] Leroux, Pierre : De l’humanité, de son principe et de son avenir : où se trouve exposée la vraie définition de la religion, et où l’on explique le sens, la suite et l’enchaînement du mosaïsme et du christianisme. Tome 1   Perrotin, Paris, 1840, p. 179

[8] Renaud, Hippolyte SolidaritéVue synthétique sur la doctrine de Charles Fourier, Paris 1842

[9] Supiot, Alain : Sur le principe de solidarité,  Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History , January 2005 (06), p. 67

[10] Comte, Auguste : Discours sur l’esprit positif, Carilian-Goeury et V. Dalmont, Paris, 1844, p. 74-75

[11] Ibidem

[12] La solidarité, p. 116

[13]  Kant, Immanuel: Kant’s gesammelte Schriften. Band 8 / herausgegeben von der Königlich Preußilchen Akademie der Wissenschaften, G. Reimer (Berlin) and W. De Gruyter (Berlin), 1910-1983 b.VIII, p. 179

[14] La solidarité, p.44

[15] See Vincent Gilbert : Ethos protestant, éthique de la solidarité. I. L’héritage kantien. Reprises et transformations. In: Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses, 82e année n°3, Juillet-Septembre 2002. P. 321

doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/rhpr.2002.984 , https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhpr_0035-2403_2002_num_82_3_984

[16] La solidarité. p.45

[17] See Vincent, Gilbert : L’ethique de la solidarité : l’apport des solidaristes in La solidarité : exigence morale ou obligation publique?, ed. Soulet, Marc-Henry academic press Fribourg, Fribourg, 2004, p. 57

[18] La solidarité, p. 84

[19] Ibid., p. 53

[20] Ibid., p.54-55

[21] Ibid. p. 47

[22] See ibid. p. 39

[23] Ibid. 60

[24] Quoted by G. Vincent (2004) op.cit p.68.

[25] La solidarité, p. 62

[26] Ibid.p.72

[27] Ibid.p.74-75

[28] See: Ewald, François :L’État providence, Paris 1986, p. 367

[29] La solidarité p. 48

[30] Ibid.p.116

[31] Ibid.p.124

[32] Ibid. p.108

[33] Ibid. p.93

[34] Code Napoléon, édition originale et seule officielle Imp. impériale (Paris), 1807, p.355

[35] La solidarité op.cit. p.133.

[36]  See Blais Marie-Claire : La solidarité.  Histoire d’une idée Gallimard, Paris 2007, p. 39

[37] See. La solidarité op. cit. p. 41.

[38] See. La solidarité op.cit. p. 142

[39] See Foucault,Michel: Cours au Collège de France 1977-78, Gallimard, Paris, 2004, for references; while quotes in English translation are taken from: Foucault,Michel: The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979 . Edited by Senellart, Michel. Translated by Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008)

[40] Foucault, Lectures, p. 30

[41] Ibid. 116

[42] Ibid. p.117

[43] Ibid p. 247

[44] Ibid. p. 120

[45] Ibid. p. 242

[46] See ibid. p.207

[47] See Röpke, Wilhelm: The Social Crisis of Our Times, Part II, c. 2, p. 236: quoted by Foucault, Lectures p. 243.

[48] In 2021 in Europe, more than one in 5 people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This is 21.7% of the population. See https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/ddn-20220915-1.

[49] Rapport de M. Léon Bourgeois au Congrès D’ Éducation Sociale en 1900 in, Bourgeois, Leon – Solidarité, 3e éd., Armand Colin, 1902, p. 180

[50] idem

[51] idem

In Lightning Memory: A Philosophical Dictionary à la Baroncelli

The following definitions combine insightful personal memories and personally memorable insights that I recall from, or associate with, Flavio Baroncelli (1944–2007) qua eloquent and witty teacher, brilliant and ingenious writer, fast and sharp conversationalist, generous and kind human being, and committed promoter of the teacher- and student exchange programmes linking together Iceland, my adoptive country, and the University of Genoa, my alma mater. Not all of them must be taken literally or too seriously; besides, I would not agree with some of them myself! All of them are, however, sincere tokens of gratitude, friendship and love to a truly remarkable individual, who enjoyed entertaining and shocking his audiences, but above all liked making them think, debate, and think some more. Furthermore, these definitions are a creative and inevitably poor attempt at exemplifying for the Anglophone public the sort of pithy and humorous style that, inter alia, made Baroncelli famous in Italy in his day.



Another word for potentiality.



A disease mistaken for moral failure.



Causing pleasure by sly words, even when the listener knows that they are lies. Philosophers, in their stately parlance, would call it a perlocutionary speech act.



The daily demonstration of how little control we have over our own will.



A polite way for educated people to be open-minded pluralists in theory but narrow-minded atheists in practice.


Analysis (of concepts)

The bizarre tendency to turn ambiguous profundity into unambiguous superficiality.


Analytic (philosophy)

A typically modern attempt at making self-conscious philosophers sound like respectable scientists.



The best way to acquire power in a capitalist society, especially if one wishes to destroy it.


Beauty (physical)

One of the most important life-defining characteristics that a person can have the good luck to possess and that philosophers keep stating not to matter.



A seemingly private place where both neighbours and State authorities seem often eager to enter.



The least understood yet most important principle of the French Revolution: without a modicum of genuinely felt compassion among fellow citizens, both liberty and equality will get used to ruin someone else’s life.



A dangerous and stupid way not to listen to dangerous and stupid claims.



When rasping hopelessly and continuously on a hard road surface, they exemplify instinctual behaviour as opposed to deliberate.



Powerful, sweet, devious killers.



The curse of any philosopher who may wish to come across as deep, original and worthy of enduring attention.


Coherence (aka consistency)

The unhealthy obsession with getting rid of all the instances of personal diversity, creativity, capriciousness and experimentalism that make individual life interesting and collective life possible.



The 20th-century political scarecrow that, for the duration of about one generation, made the de iure liberal countries of the world be actually a little more liberal than their de facto oligarchic past and present flag out.



The most important virtue cultivated by Christianity.



A much-cherished liberal value, as long as it does not apply to oneself.



Generally loathed by the very same people who have most reason to complain—an instance of slave morality.


Continental (philosophy)

A not-so-modern attempt at making self-important philosophers sound like profound mystics.



Someone else’s form of madness.



The folklore of the rich.



Coping with far-too-real nightmares.



Its training in infancy reveals how people prefer freedom to be qualified and circumscribed.


Discipline (and Punish)

The most important book by Michel Foucault, who taught us that the more societies publicly incense liberty and call themselves “liberal”, the less freedom common people truly enjoy in order to do as they please.



The ideal sort of loyal, selfless, hard-working and simple-mindedly grateful employees that employers would like to have.


Economics (contemporary)

A branch of mathematics mistaken for empirical science.


Economics (modern)

A branch of philosophy mistaken for empirical science.



Clarification articulating possible meanings of a pithy expression, with consequent loss of aesthetic and thought-provoking value of the latter. Sterilisation by explanation. (E.g. paraphrasing a poem, explaining a joke.)



The possibility for all people to be as bad and as silly as the rich and powerful minorities frequently are.



Aristocracy’s last ditch at controlling modern society.



See “Get lost!” below.



It is only after Darwin that people understood what the heck Lucretius and Telesio were talking about.


Exceptions (making)

The first step towards tolerance and pluralism.



An option generally available only to a person who stops doubting.



The culture of the poor.



Birds that can be confused with swans, especially in Iceland.



An exact formal science that can be used rhetorically as a persuasive labelling method for inexact metaphysical reasoning.


Get (lost!)

Uttered in a timely fashion, it can save a person the trouble of having to answer a difficult question.



If ancient, it is an excellent way to display one’s own erudition.



The true source of happiness, yet regularly forgotten until missing.


Hegel (Georg Friedrich)

A typical German philosopher, he wrote several tomes to demonstrate that nothing stays the same.


History (of ideas)

A way to find out why we think the way we think.



The equalising social process deplored by anthropologists whereby identifying the poor, the outcast, the loathed, the derided and the downtrodden becomes a little less easy.


Hume (David)

An uncharacteristically prodigal Scotsman, he noticed that the only way to be sure that all matches in the box do work is to light them all up.



The misunderstood virtue of avoiding conflict in reality by accepting conflict in principle.



A set of loosely interconnected concepts, some of which may be even mutually contradictory, that allow people to feel justified in their claims and actions, or at least to project an air of justification for them.



The demonstration of the bodily basis of the mind.



The least acknowledged yet most important virtue in a pluralist society: by caring little about what other people believe or do, mutual tolerance can be the norm.


Insight (aka Intuition)

Prejudice we like.



The remarkable social invention whereby to preserve the memory of past errors and make the inexorably ignorant new generations somewhat less likely to repeat them.


Intervention (by the State)

A much-loathed socialist value, which liberals accept as soon as they are in trouble.



A valuable means of instruction that can reach even those who do not wish to be instructed.


Kant (Immanuel)

A typical German philosopher, he wrote two tomes to undo an earlier one.



That which philosophers seek and analyse most, and yet have the least of.



The precious and inevitable source of all misunderstandings.


Lashes (by whip)

As long as someone else gets more than you do, most slaves will not rebel against slavery.



Another good way to show one’s own erudition.



The political wisdom teaching that State authority should be used only to protect a person from her worst enemies: her neighbours.



A rather bothersome business, but also the only one in town.



An open motive among men; less so among women. Gender equality’s lewd horizon.



Another way to understand religion.


Marx (Karl)

A typical German philosopher, he wrote several tomes to demonstrate that, normally, if the employer gets more, the employee gets less—and vice versa.



A neologism by the privileged.


Mixed (marriage)

The easiest and fastest way to explain why a marriage did not last. No such option is available for divorces between people of the same ethnic origin, the explanation of which may then take years of keen psychological scrutiny.


Montaigne (Michel de)

His essays became so famous and commonplace that later philosophers forgot to mention the source of the ideas that they discussed and, eventually, Montaigne himself. There can be such a thing as too much fame.


More (Thomas)

Great wisdom expressed with clarity.


Nietzsche (Friedrich)

An atypical German philosopher, he wrote aphorisms to acknowledge a major yet neglected motive of human thought and action: resentment.



The likeliest outcome of a person’s life, which we spend trying not to think about it.



In practice, the supreme official principle of social life.



The future outcome of the present ignorance about the past.


Pain (and Pleasure)

The fabric of our inner tapestry.



When good, it is the playful use of our imagination and of our reason in order to break apart, toy with and recombine concepts, beliefs and habits of thought, in order to make better sense of them. When bad, it is the skillful use of our imagination and of our reason in order to do the same and, in the end, be even more confused.



An artificial reminder of life’s beauty.


Political (correctness)

The ungainly social process whereby the less respected members of a community can have a chance to be paid a little more respect.



A widespread yet uncomfortable signpost of liberal freedom.



Another word for actuality.



A person’s attribute that, if conspicuous, makes other significant attributes deplorable or intolerable to the surrounding individuals: age, race, religious affiliation, ignorance, ugliness, etc.



Insights we dislike.



A vice leading frequently to virtuous behaviour.



Often confused with quantity.



Often confused with quality.



The best instrument available to reveal how ignorant we are, no matter the number of university degrees we may have.



A historically popular but unnecessary notion which justifies people being nasty to one another. In its absence, freckles or bad pronunciation can serve the same purpose.



The art of making outlandish ideas sound plausible, thus duly impressing unsuspecting young minds and potential sexual partners.



The perplexing faculty to take apart whatever solid conclusion we had reached before.



The unjustly neglected study of how language shapes people’s life under all circumstances.



The most dangerous virtue cultivated by Christianity.



Unwise over-intelligent overthinking—it is by far too delightful an endeavour for most philosophers to resist the temptation of indulging in it despite their own better judgment.



A natural reminder of life’s beauty.


Spinoza (Baruch)

Great wisdom could be expressed with more clarity.



Having someone below you is usually more important than having someone above—another instance of slave morality.


Straw-man (fallacies)

Mistaken by logicians as fictional errors, they are the far-too-real claims of ordinary men and women; if one is willing, and brave enough, to listen to real people.



The regularly underplayed yet visibly increased outcome of greater freedom in human societies.



Birds that can be confused with geese, especially in Iceland.



A structured way of thinking and talking that allows the person using it to come across as astoundingly intelligent and thereby force another to shut up, even if the latter may actually be right.



The socially crucial ability to endure people that we dislike.



The perplexing notion whereby tolerance is not enough in society, for we must also like the people that we dislike.



The most efficient way to get bad information from innocent weaklings and no information at all from guilty brutes.



To modern eyes, an old form of cannibalism.


Ugliness (physical)

One of the most important life-defining characteristics that a person can have the ill luck to possess and that philosophers keep stating not to matter.



That from which all great ideologies wish to free us once and for all, but which all great historians tell us that we must accept for any human endeavour to have a chance to work at all.



See defecation.



Whether threatened or applied, it is in practice the supreme unofficial principle of social life.



The best example of how being a master of style condemns a man to being remembered as a minor thinker.



A person’s attribute that, if conspicuous, makes other significant attributes invisible to the surrounding individuals: age, race, religious affiliation, ignorance, ugliness, etc.



We like thinking of it as free, despite all contrary evidence.


Wittgenstein (Ludwig)

A Continental philosopher mistaken for an analytical one.



One of the many words for the imaginary place of endless joy that all cultures have concocted and that only some silly philosophers would state not to want to go to.



The time of peak performance in a person’s life, the rest of which is spent trying to make use of ridiculous concepts that can help that person to enjoy some respect and self-respect: the wisdom of old age, the charm of grey hair, the value of experience, etc.



Often confused with “Jewish” and “Israeli”, it can be combined with them in the following matrix:

Jewish, Israeli and Zionist

Non-Jewish, Israeli and Zionist

Jewish, Non-Israeli and Zionist

Jewish, Israeli and Non-Zionist

Non-Jewish, Non-Israeli and Zionist

Jewish, Non-Israeli and Non-Zionist

Non-Jewish, Israeli and Non-Zionist

Non-Jewish, Non-Israeli and Non-Zionist